Home ♃ Recent Stories ☄ The Rise of Birmingham Music Producer Luke S. Crowder

The Rise of Birmingham Music Producer Luke S. Crowder

Birmingham’s Luke Crowder on Sunday won a Grammy Award for production on mega rapper Killer Mike’s album, ‘Micheal’ in the category of Best Rap Album. (PROVIDED)

By Je’Don Holloway-Talley | For The Birmingham Times

Add Grammy Award-winning music producer to the list of honors for Birmingham’s Luke S. Crowder. During the 66th annual Grammy Awards a week ago he won a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Album for production performed on mega-rapper Killer Mike’s album, “Michael.”

The 35-year-old Crowder kept his celebration “low-key,” he said, with a bottle of champagne and a take-out-meal-turned-celebratory-feast. “I had a conversation with my mom, [Robbie]. She was pleased about it, [and] she told me to continue to keep God first and my ego in check,” he said.

Musical Foundation

Crowder can credit his mother and family ties for his musical upbringing, which was steeped in the church. His mother sang in their family’s home church, Winewood Baptist Christian Fellowship in Birmingham’s Roebuck neighborhood, and his parents loved blaring music around the house.

“You might hear Olivia Newton-John and Hall & Oates one day, Stevie Wonder and Prince the next day, and Billie Joel, Curtis Mayfield, or Parliament-Funkadelic the day after that,” Crowder laughed. “I was always hearing eclectic music.”

Crowder gravitated toward instruments. He has some formal piano training, a natural prowess for percussion, and dabbles at the bass guitar. Essentially, he started making music as a preteen on his mother’s Korg keyboard, where he created instrumentals of his own using its built-in recorder.

As for developing his own sound, he attributes that to his older brother, Ken, who he credits as “one of the greatest influences for my musical style. Ken was always into music, and at the time he was DJing and rapping with his friends,” said Crowder.

At Birmingham’s Ramsay High School, Crowder moved on to making beats using a program called FruityLoops, now called FL Studio: “This was the program that really got me into production,” he said of the software music production environment, or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

“Ken was in college, [at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU)], and his friend, Jacquez Williams, had the program and gave me a copy. … When they would come home from [AAMU], we would have a friendly competition, playing our beats for each other. Then one day my brother said, ‘We should create a production group,’” Crowder recalled.

The trio produced under the moniker SWAT Team Productions, circa 2002, and their sound even made it to local airwaves.

After graduating from high school, Crowder attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) from 2007 to 2009, majoring in biology with a minor in music.

“I did a few years, and then I knew that route wasn’t for me,” he said. “I was preoccupied and trying to get back to the studio. [I was] not worried about which 16th-century composer did what.”

Crowder left UAB in 2009 and began “adulting,” he said, working warehouse, retail, and administrative jobs. He then spent more than 15 years as an underground producer.

The Magic City’s underground scene “has always been vibrant,” he said. “I had a chance to produce for [numerous unsigned acts]. … The Foreign Exchange and Labotomix [night clubs] were good places to see different electric styles of R&B singers and neo-soul artists perform. I was never one to perform at those showcases, [but] I was the one who provided the music to [some of] the artists, … and it was an honor to see them use it.”

Rising Profile

Asked how he transitioned from underground and undiscovered to an award-winning producer, Crowder said he had to pivot.

“I was doing so many cold calls, trying to do it the ordinary way, [pitching artists via email and social media], when a peer of mine showed me another route,” he said. “I learned that there were other ways I could get my production out, and I basically became the melody man.”

Co-producing records became the gateway into the “members-only” society of hit-music makers and brought a sudden influx of opportunities, raising his profile among industry producers.

“I make music that feels good to me,” Crowder said. “My sound is colored by what inspires me. … I am a conduit for vibrations—an emotion, a memory, an experience, a call to action, a plea—and I transfer it to the music.”

The now-certified double-platinum producer has collaborations with music industry heavy-hitters, such as Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Common, Latto, Bryson Tiller, Young Thug, YSL Records, Lil Wayne, and, of course, Grammy Award winner Killer Mike.

Some of Crowder’s other achievements include Billboard number-one hits, a Dove and a Stellar award, and certified gold records. He’s also produced what’s called music sync placements, sound effects and tones for television and digital media.

Several of his digital tones and/or melodies have “landed,” meaning they’ve been used, on shows like Lena Waithe’s “The Chi” and Issa Raye’s “Rap Sh!t,” video games like “Fortnite” and “NBA2K,” and commercials for Peloton and Pizza Hut.

Co-producing with his mentor, veteran music producer Darwin “C Gutta” Quinn, has had a tremendous impact on his career and that getting signed to his production label, Gutta Muzik, has expanded his reach, Crowder said.

Sharing the Spotlight

The producer believes in reaching back and pulling up fellow musicians, he said.

“My prayer is that I continue to be a light for myself and others. I want to keep giving other creatives the same type of access I have. I want to be a gate opener rather than a gatekeeper,” said Crowder, who added that he and his partners, RJV Media, Sound Fader, and Good Omen Studios, are planning to open a creative compound in Homewood, Alabama, in late February.

“It’s a multimedia facility, where you can record, do podcasts, photography. … We’re trying to make a central hub for artists and creatives.”

The Grammy winner also hosts a monthly community-based event called Vibe Tribe, a collaboration with local groups like BHAM Stands and The Flourish, that helps to give exposure and opportunity to local talent.

“It’s a free event, held every third Wednesday of each month at The Green House in [Birmingham’s Ensley neighborhood], that highlights local producers and showcases fashion designers, chefs, and other small businesses here in [the city],” Crowder said.

“I’ll also be teaming up with Vibe Tribe and The Flourish [on a project] called the ‘Bloom Initiative,’… [and] we’re going to start working with Birmingham City Schools students [who have an interest in music production] and will teach them throughout the next three or four months.”

Luke S. Crowder’s music can be found on all major music streaming platforms. Follow him on Instagram @lukelimelite and TikTok @luke.crowder.

Updated on 2/16/2024 to shorten title.